As I mentioned in "Brains Rewired? Part One," perhaps something more insidious than depleting our memories is going on as we become more dependent upon and more involved with the technology of the Information Age.
From this book review of Todd Oppenheimer's The Flickering Mind, published in 2003:
[Todd Oppenheimer found that] computer-only research leads students to become dependent on authority for knowledge. Using the Internet as an information source they do not develop the same sort of critical evaluation of sources essential for historical research. Worse, Internet research makes plagiarism easy and appealing: one can simply copy an web page, run it through a computerized thesaurus, and hand it in as original work.Clearly, then, technology is rewiring our brains and impairing our ability to think critically while, at the same time, more and more curricula are demanding extensive use of the Internet. From the Center for Brain Health:
The most compelling part of Oppenheimer's argument is his disapproval of the trendy nature of high technology in schools. He notes that Thomas Edison had predicted that the motion picture would obsolete textbooks and lead to education that was 100% efficient.
The motion picture trend was then replaced (respectively) by radio, then television, then videodisk, then computer, then Internet. Each of these trends cost the education system large amounts of money, attracted enthusiasm for a limited time, and ultimately failed to save schools....
...We are exposed to three times more information today as compared to four decades ago. The information overload leads to more multitasking and forces us to push our brain to do things it was not built to do. In essence, the normal function of our brain is impaired, especially the frontal lobe.The PBS video Digital Nation below is long, but worth your while as we consider whether we're the masters of technology or if, in reality, technology is the master of us and thereby changing our brains and social interactions in ways not yet fully understood:
The frontal lobe of the brain is key to dynamic thinking and is the last part of the brain to develop and the first to decline. Frontal lobe function is responsible for strategic attention, critical thinking, judgment, decision making and problem solving. The lure of technology is rewiring our brains in detrimental ways leading to weakened focus, shallower thinking, reduced creativity and forward thinking and a lowered ability to shut out irrelevant information – all decreasing our brain’s potential....